The acclaimed writer Abdella Taïa on the protests gripping France.
We are in an emergency, that’s for certain. France is on edge at present, on fire. France is angry. Very angry. And nobody can say that this anger emanating from the lower middle class is unjustified. No. There is consensus on that, on its legitimacy. People really have had enough of paying even more tax, and of seeing their lives being reduced day after day. Opposing desires – the desire for purchasing power and the desire to regain one’s dignity.
Televisions and movies would have us believe that the time from late November to the new year is a run on love, togetherness, and eggnog sipped in front of an open fire, but real-life seldom plays out so nicely. There are a multitude of reasons to dread the holidays, but whom amongst us hasn’t inwardly groaned about the family visit? Between the awkward conversations around the dinner table, or the long played out family feud, the holidays can invoke dread in the best of us.
There are people who choose to take Jane Eyre or Great Expectations to their desert island, and then there are people who choose Machine Art, a 1933 catalog for an exhibition at New York’s MoMA featuring stark photographs of household and industrial objects. Toasters vs. Edward Rochester.
This Sunday marks the 152nd anniversary of Charles Dickens first visit to the United State, to read before a packed audience at Boston’s Tremont Temple. In a gushing story at the time, the New York Times reported that the hall was filled “by perhaps one of the most appreciative, fashionable, and brilliant audiences ever assembled in New England.” These days that kind of language is largely reserved for the peacock parade that is the annual Met Ball, or the Oscars red carpet. Try to imagine such a dandy crowd taking even a moment out of their self-absorption to listen, as they did in the Tremont Temple, to a recital of The Pickwick Papers (unless that person was Hugh Dancy, who chose the book for his bookshelf). Yet in 1867, such was the fervor for Dickens that police were drafted in to prevent, as the Times put it, “any confusion or disturbance attendant upon the grand rush into the hall.” Within three years the writer would be dead from a stroke, at the age of 58, brought on it was suggested, by an emotional reading he’d given of the death of Nancy in his novel, Oliver Twist. Even if apocryphal, it’s a fitting finale for one of the most enduring of all writers.
Roger Ebert called Bernardo Bertolucci one of the great painters of the screen. It’s a distinction the director—who has succumbed to cancer at 77—proved many times over, from his sprawling Oscar favorite The Last Emperor (1987) to the lush and undervalued Stealing Beauty (1996). In The Dreamers (2003), an audacious big screen adaptation of the novel by film critic Gilbert Adair, Bertolucci unleashes his painterly instincts right out of the gate with the graphic design of his opening credits. Scored to a guitar-rock soundtrack, the sequence sees the camera descend the Eiffel Tower, with arbitrary, architectural color blocking a la Mondrian. The names of cast and crew are alternately obscured and revealed amid the tower’s bolted beams, and the emergence of the title itself points to a definite ’60s Mod influence—the font suggesting it leapt from a Euro band’s vinyl album cover.
EVERYONE’S KIND OF STUPID ABOUT LOVE, OR ATTRACTION MAGIC
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Can you believe I just quoted Rumi? What nerve! Who am I, Oprah? What is this, yoga? I’ve finally gone too far. But just because I had the chutzpah to bust out the ancient Persian mystic poetry doesn’t mean you don’t have to reckon with the realness of my Rumi quote, because that’s what the love chapter of this book is all about. If you’re here for the secret to getting cute Jane or hot Johnny to be obsessed with you, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say: your idea is a bad idea, and your plan is a bad plan. It’s an eminently doable sort of magic but also some of the most fuck-up-able. I’ll outline some better ideas and plans so that you can get what you actually want, which, it turns out, is not just more attention from the person who chooses not to spend their attention on you. This is a hard truth that a lot of us end up banging our heads against again and again, like a locker door in a 1980s rom-com, but that’s okay. We’re all burdened with juvenile-flavored fantasy when it comes to love and romance; there have been a lot of movies, you guys! So much bullshit messaging coming through and gumming up the works.
Aaron Hicklin reviews The Feral Detective, in which Jonathan Lethem conjures Burning Man if it was directed by Hitchcock.
On the penultimate page of his pacy 11th novel, The Feral Detective, slick-tongued protagonist, Phoebe Siegler, touches the umpteenth nerve ending of Lethem’s urbane, metropolitan readers. “I wasn’t going back to op-eds and conceptual art installations and Paris Review parties and scrolling outraged updates interspersed with pastry photographs,” she muses to herself. “Better no world than that one, sweet as it had been. It was gone.” It’s a neat coda to Lethem’s ambitious attempt to examine, and frequently eviscerate, the primitive call-response mechanism of the Trump presidency, and the sense of impotent rage it perpetually engenders. Phoebe, of course, is a stand-in for the reader—hollowed out by the outcome of an election she didn’t see coming, and left questioning the privileges she once took for granted. Read More Beware the Bear
Meghan Udell, a producer of the Deep Water Literary Fest, read over 120 books this year. She picks her ten favorites.
Every year on my birthday I set a personal goal for myself. For all intents and purposes, it’s exactly like a New Year’s resolution, except I get the distinct and petty pleasure of telling people, “I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.”